Rick Wagoner, General Motors' chairman and chief executive, has relinquished his personal control of day-to-day operations of the auto giant's struggling North American unit.

That smouldering hotseat has been handed to Troy A Clarke, currently head of GM's Asia-Pacific unit, who will return to Detroit from his current base in Shanghai to continue efforts at a homeland turnround.

Wagoner took personal control of North American operation in April 2005 in the wake of a $1.5 billion (€1.17bn; £796.8bn) quarterly loss and has made significant progress toward recovery - despite a continuing fall in market share exacerbated by high labour and healthcare costs.

He has also slashed North American production capacity in line with the company's diminished market share. Additionally, he has brokered severance packages with the company's blue-collar workforce and negotiated a union agreement to peg healthcare costs.

Said Wagoner yesterday: "While much work remains to be done, we have reached several significant milestones in our turnround plan over the past year."

Clarke (51), a 33-year GM veteran, is reputedly a low-key but no-nonsense manager. One of his main challenges will be to negotiate a new labour contract with the Union of Auto Workers, the current version of which lapses in September 2007. This will be a re-run for Clarke who also led GM's team in the previous contract round in 2003.

Donning Clarke's managerial mantle in the Asia Pacific region is Englishman Nick Reilly, much garlanded for his role in the turnround of GM Daewoo, the carmaker's joint venture in South Korea.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff